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Title: Getting there, being there, making a difference? : gendered discourses of access and action in local politics
Author: Mackay, Fiona
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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This thesis aims to further our understanding of the relationship between gender relations, political structures and political action. There are two broad questions posed by the study of women in political elites. The first asks why there are so few women in politics; and the second asks whether the (increased) presence of women makes a difference in terms of, for instance, political agenda or policy outcome. The thesis examines the ways in which gender is relevant to women's experience as political actors in terms of their access, presence and agency in local decision-making assemblies. Data were collected via in-depth semi-structured interviews with 53 female councillors across political party, in four Scottish local authorities. In addition, a case study was undertaken into a policy initiative common to the four authorities. Section I uses the councillors' narratives to examine the way in which gender relations shape and impede access to political elites; and explores the justifications they offered to promote the increased presence of women. The objective was to place these discourses within the context of contemporary theories and political debates about equality and representation; and recent suggestions with regard to feminist political theories of care. It was found that women had a clear understanding of the gendered barriers to equal participation in politics and perceived them as rooted in the sexual division of labour. Their discussions of gendered realities exposed the limitations of dominant constructions of equal opportunities and 'fairness' which have, to date, failed to deliver significant improvements in levels of women's political representation, particularly at Westminster. Women also forwarded complex reasons and justifications for the increased access of women into decision-making bodies, including the assertion that women make a difference qua women. The case study of Zero Tolerance, an anti-violence public awareness compaign, is explored in Section II. The campaign, which uses a feminist analysis, has attracted considerable interest throughout the UK, Europe and the world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available